Jacci Den Hartog – Peach Blossom Spring

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Jacci Den Hartog (American, born 1962), Peach Blossom Spring, 1994, polyurethane over plaster and steel. On view at Portland Art Museum.

Den Hartog’s Peach Blossom Spring, a vertically oriented wall-sculpture of polyurethane over plaster and steel, teeters between the beautiful and the grotesque. It looks something like a traditional Chinese landscape painting that has been rendered in three dimensions and then coated in a thick, gloppy layer of polyurethane. The polyurethane is, itself, beautiful but it also piques one’s curiosity about what lies beneath. David Pagel, in a review from 1996 notes that these are examples of “landscape sculpture” a small genre and that they resemble “the unlikely offspring of Chinese landscape painting and tacky restaurant decorations (especially those found in Los Angeles’s Chinatown, where faux, mini-waterfalls gurgle over plastic rocks and synthetic moss, cascading into ponds filled with samplings of the fish on the menu).” Some insight into the sculpture’s beautiful landscape partially obscured and abstracted by a coating of polyurethane may come from the traditional Chinese fable Peach Blossom Spring Story, about a fisherman who discovers a utopia but is then unable to locate it again. Beauty is ephemeral and often fully accessible only once.

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